The New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission needs four new full-time attorneys to meet current deadlines for child custody cases, according to the executive director.
Supreme Court Justice Tracey DeWare issued an order to all attorneys earlier this month to “consider early” child custody cases, after the Court of Appeal ruled in 29th September these issues should be resolved within 30 days. under the Family Services Act, “there are no special circumstances.”
“Everyone is used to hearing that you know, 60 days or 90 days,” says Pierre Castonguay. It’s “just around.”
But in the appeal case, it took five and a half months to prepare a hearing for the six-month detention order, he said. “So beyond the timelines and regrets about the advice that said, ‘Well, this is totally unnecessary.'”
Part of the problem, the chief justice said, is that parents have a right to legal aid, and it usually takes three to four weeks for Legal Aid to assign a lawyer to their case.
13 family lawyers on staff
New Brunswick Legal Aid uses a “hybrid” staffing model, Castonguay said, meaning full-time lawyers and hiring private practice lawyers to help with the workload. , or in cases of war.
Currently, there are about 13 family attorneys on staff and 22 criminal attorneys on staff across the state, he said.
There are three more positions to be filled – two for family lawyers in Woodstock and Saint John, and one for a criminal lawyer in Moncton.
About 135 child custody cases are before the New Brunswick court of King’s Bench.
About 60 court and family separation cases scheduled over the next two months have been notified and may be adjourned to include child custody cases.
“Of course [given] the new set of mandates and the new times that Justice DeWare has set forth in his instructions, we will need additional resources for the employee model, and in the short term, we will rely heavily on the site model that is unique to us taking these supplements. places,” said Castonguay.
The funding process is until the spring
Legal Aid is still working to determine how many more full-time positions are needed and where.
But Castonguay believes there will be more support in the cities because they have the most cases.
“Additional resources are needed for each of Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, plus assistance for the northern region. So it’s a minimum of four,” he said. “That’s a start.
“But no, ‘Legal assistance is requested for 10 [or 12] new lawyer,’ or … The business case can support it.”
Everyone knows that this is necessary for the proper administration of justice. So I think the government is changing the way the resources are.– Pierre Castonguay, New Brunswick Legal Aid
The new positions must be approved by the spring budget administration and the Department of Justice and the Department of Finance, he said.
He ended by saying, “He’s very thoughtful.”
“Everybody knows that this is necessary for the proper administration of justice. So I think the government is changing the nature of the property in the spring.”
Meanwhile, Legal Aid has also provided attorneys for general family services workers to handle child custody cases, she said.
Legal Aid has also begun reaching out to its list of private lawyers working in legal aid to see if they are willing to take on some of the child custody cases, which are expected to be affected. to the court docket until the end of 2023.
Castonguay expects a challenge because there are few lawyers in New Brunswick, and the Crown may seek to hire prosecutors in the family split.
Legal aid may need to look at outsourcing more contract work to private lawyers, rather than hiring them on a per-case and hourly basis, he said. There are three private lawyers in rural areas who provide family services two or three days a week for a fee.
“So due to the lack of staff, we are open to different models to meet the needs of these new directives.”
Legal Aid is part of a task force designed to investigate the growing number of child custody cases and identify solutions for dealing with them in a timely manner.
“It’s a sharing committee, a communication committee, a task-work-of-the-challenge committee,” Castonguay said.
The task force also includes members of the judiciary, representatives of the Life Integration Office, Crown family prosecutors, and court services.